If you’ve recently been treated for hearing loss, then you are aware of the many benefits that hearing aids bring. Now that you have accepted it within yourself, it should be an easy step to inform the other people in your life, right? It turns out that the way you tell people has more of an effect than you think.
Researchers at at Massachusetts Eye and Ear interviewed over 300 seniors with hearing loss to find out what disclosure methods are most common among those who are finding it hard to hear. Jessica S. West, lead author on the study, published in the Ear and hearing journal, found three disclosure strategies, which resulted in wildly varying results when sharing hearing loss with loved ones. We highlight the methods used here, and the effects they have on the individual’s experience of hearing loss.
Individuals who refused to discuss or recognize their hearing loss subscribed to this disclosure method. Instead of opening up about their hearing loss, and telling others about the problems they had with their hearing, they’d tell those around them to speak up, deflecting responsibility for the loss in communication and calling on the other person to increase their efforts to retain the connection.
Nondisclosures were more likely to suffer reduced well-being, have family members who either were unaware or unable to help them, and more relationship issues overall. They were more likely to encounter stress, social isolation, and depression and dementia. It goes without saying that the study authors don’t recommend this course of action for any person with hearing loss.
With basic disclosure, you reveal your condition to those individuals who you trust greatly. You might say something like “I have difficulty hearing because I used to be in a rock band.” You have highlighted the need for close family members to accommodate your hearing loss to help you partake in conversations around you. You talk about the causes of your hearing loss, as well as how it is currently affecting you.
Those who divulge their hearing loss to close family members experience more support from family and friends, and are also urged to get treatment. The people that they speak to also take steps make communication simpler.
The multipurpose disclosers are the best option the three kinds, as you may have expected. They share that they are encountering a hearing loss and, crucially, also offer tips on the most effective way to communicate with them. For instance, a multipurpose discloser might comment, “My hearing loss is worse in this ear. It would be better if you sat on my left side.” This gives other individuals enough information to change their behaviour to best account for your hearing loss.
Those who subscribed to this method of disclosure enjoyed clearer communication with others, more fulfilling relationships, and found it easier to adjust a life with hearing loss. Families were more supportive of their condition, and they were also more likely to seek hearing treatment in the form of hearing aids, which extended the benefits even further.
Your family, your friends and your employer
Those who have been putting off telling their family and friends about hearing loss should realise that there is no better time than now. Become a multipurpose discloser, and open up about how hearing loss is affecting you. “We think it can be empowering for patients to know that these strategies, and especially the multipurpose disclosure strategy, are available to them,” Dr. Stankovic, one of the researchers in the study, said. In all likelihood, those closest to you may already be aware of your hearing loss and were waiting for you to confirm it yourself.
It is also important for you to tell your employer. This could work in your favour – employers are required by law to accommodate employees with hearing loss. There are many small changes they can make to help you to become a happier, more productive employee.
When people are able to talk about their condition, as well as clearly communicate the methods needed to help facilitate increased understanding, the distance between those with hearing loss and the people around them is reduced. If you are ready to disclose your hearing loss, make sure you are clear about how it affects you, explain how you acquired it, and let others know how they can help you deal with it.
The most difficult step in any hearing loss journey by far, is accepting your hearing loss. So well done to you for doing so. Are you ready for your first hearing consultation? Contact us at Elevate Audiology today to set up an appointment!